The Courtney Holley Literary Award FATHER AS DISTANT BOAT

Fall 2009: Issue 86

Jennifer Whitaker

Far across the lake, on the other shore, the family

takes off their hats, loosens their neckties, unbraids

their hair. There is a man and woman,

a girl and small dog with floppy ears. They board you

through the mist and stink of weeds. You pitch wildly.


Not until the shore’s too far gone will they realize

the wood underfoot is rotten soft. Delicately,

like a slowly flooding room, it will dawn

on them: no one ever survives you. At sunset

they’ll leap from your edges like flames.